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View From 'The Voice': Caribbean aid rules must change

DEVASTATION: Puerto Rico after being hit by Hurricane Maria (image credit: Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse/Getty)

ONCE AGAIN another Caribbean island has been in the eye of the storm as Dominica became one of the latest victims of a rampant Hurricane season which has left utter devastation. Maria, the second Category 5 Atlantic storm, made a direct hit on the former British colony this week.

This came after the region was recovering from the passage of Hurricane Irma just a fortnight ago. Irma smashed the tiny island of Barbuda and pummelled Anguilla, St. Martin, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands (BVI). In addition, some of these islands were bracing themselves for even more challenges, watching as Maria followed the same path Irma took, working its way through the eastern Caribbean.

One cannot begin to understand the disrepair done to the economies and infrastructure of these islands, some of which are still British Overseas Territories and some of which are independent countries, relying on their own internal industries to drive revenue.

Many of these islands will suffer long term damage if aid is not forthcoming quickly.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a flying visit to the region and immediately committed to more aid funds. Now Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for the Department for International Development is making moves to change the rules which block the use of Overseas Development Aid for these British territories. This we believe is an important step in the right direction.

Because of rules which were written over 40 years ago, Overseas Development Aid could not be given to Overseas Territories with ‘middle-income’ economies which would affect places like Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the BVI from gaining access to much needed aid funds. Many, if not all, of these islands rely on tourism and if airports, hotels, electricity and schools are not in a fit state this winter season then there will be another blow to their economy.

It is right therefore, that Priti Patel is seeking to ensure these out-dated rules “keep pace with the challenges of the 21st century while helping to end aid dependency, boost jobs, growth and end extreme poverty.”

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